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Martha & The Vandellas

Along with the Supremes, Martha & the Vandellas defined the distaff side of the Motown sound in the '60s; their biggest hits, including "Heat Wave," "Dancing in the Street," and "Nowhere to Run," remain among the most potent and enduring dance records of the era. The vocal group was led by Martha Reeves who, along with fellow Detroit natives Annette Sterling Beard, Gloria Williams, and Rosalind Ashford, founded the Del-Phis in 1960. After Reeves landed a secretarial position at the offices of Motown Records, the Del-Phis were tapped to record a one-off single for the label's Melody imprint, which they cut under the name the Vels.

The single fizzled, and Williams exited, reducing the group to a trio. After backing Marvin Gaye on the superb 1962 record "Stubborn Kind of Fellow," they were renamed Martha & the Vandellas, taking inspiration from Detroit's Van Dyke Street and Reeves' heroine, Della Reese. When singer Mary Wells failed to show up for a recording date, musicians' union rules demanded that a vocalist be found to fulfill contractual obligations; as a result, Reeves was yanked from the secretarial pool and laid down what would become Martha & the Vandellas' first record, 1963's "I'll Have to Let Him Go."

The Top 30 success of the ballad "Come and Get These Memories" brought the group the attention of Motown's hit-making production team Holland-Dozier-Holland, who crafted their next smash, the galvanizing Top Five classic "Heat Wave," which perfected the mix of impassioned call-and-response vocals, pulsing rhythms, and full-bodied horns that became the trio's trademark. Following another Top Ten hit, "Quicksand," Beard retired, and was replaced by former Velvelette Betty Kelly. After singer Kim Weston turned down the Marvin Gaye/Ivy Jo Hunter/Mickey Stevenson composition "Dancing in the Street," the song was shuttled to Martha & the Vandellas; refashioned by Holland-Dozier-Holland to fit the group's formula, the anthem became their biggest hit and definitive statement, reaching number two in the summer of 1964. A year later, they returned with another smash, the savage "Nowhere to Run," followed by "I'm Ready for Love."

In 1967, Kelly exited, and was replaced by Reeves' younger sister Lois; on subsequent releases, the group was billed as Martha Reeves & the Vandellas. 1967's "Jimmy Mack" and "Honey Chile" were the last records overseen by the Holland-Dozier-Holland team before their defection from Motown, and were also the final significant Vandellas hits; in 1968, Martha Reeves fell seriously ill, and in 1969 Ashford departed, with another former Velvelette, Sandra Tilley, assuming her position. The trio continued unsuccessfully for a few more years before breaking up in the wake of a December, 1972, farewell performance at Detroit's Cobo Hall. After Motown relocated its corporate offices to Los Angeles (a move Reeves denied she was privy to), the singer, who had begun a solo career, sued to have her contract with the label annulled; in her 1994 autobiography, Dancing in the Street, she charged that the Vandellas' career, though highly successful in its own right, could have been even greater had Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr. given their music the same obsessive attention he afforded to Diana Ross & the Supremes.

Reeves recorded her debut solo effort, Martha Reeves: Produced by Richard Perry, for MCA in 1974; though a few more LPs followed, including 1976's The Rest of My Life and 1978's We Meet Again, she received little notice on her own, and eventually suffered a pair of nervous breakdowns that led to a brief period of institutionalization. Lois Reeves, meanwhile, went on to work with Al Green, while Sandra Tilley retired from music; she died in 1982 following surgery on a brain tumor. In 1989, Martha Reeves, Annette Beard, and Rosalind Ashford successfully sued Motown for back royalties, and occasionally reunited for performances in the '90s. Reeves also continued as a solo artist, and in addition performed with a Vandellas unit consisting of Lois and a third sister, Delphine. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
full bio

Comments

Great song .....heat wave...
msvglove1
Jimmy ain't coming back move on
Mom always played the songs of The Vandellas. Love all of The Motown greats.
MARTHA REEVES WAS THE QUEEN OF MOTOWN RECORDS AND OTHER WOMANS FOLLOWED IN HER FOOTSTEPS LOVE U SMILE..
Soo many memories of summer in JAX
So many summertime fun filled memories! My kind of music!
Imissmarha songsit was so hot
Great Motown group, but not quite equal to Supremes! Heat Wave is a classic and one of my all-time favorites.
cbwasher
I'm glad Martha & the group still perform and she back n track I still love
the music.
pleiadian0
This was definitely Motown's finest group. With the same backing, the Supremes would have come in second place.
Pleiadian49
I wish the artists of today would make this kind of music...
adr74380
Love is Beautiful when you r missing somebody .
akamui
I like this song
akamui
Are you guys deus
akamui
Hi
This song is definitely a classic, too bad they don't play or make music like this anymore. This was when music actually had meaning and real talent
johnharris48
This was a terrific song when I was in H.S. Just don't have groups like this today..what happened to talent? Now it's all stupid fluff.
Great songs like these will outlast and outplay today's garbage by hundreds of years, and maybe indefinitely . Lady ga ga & Katy Perry will be just other costumes in the closet.
Not better than the Supremes, but a great Motown group.
diggin' this :)
zoehibiscus
This song is on my list of great Motown songs. I absolutely love it. The beat is amazing and the rhythm is so catchy!
my lovely wife mary will sing n dance to martha she has to have her martha time
charlottewil l i a m s 1 5
how can i get kareoke of martha and the vandellas? thank you
Great
oldies's
what a great era! I'm glad I got to experience it. It sure is dull without it.
I love Martha and the Vandellas great music good all the time Iam a 1965 kid and I think the music is the greatest.
LOVE THIS SOUND OF THE TIME THE BEST!!!!
WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT REEEEAAALLLL MUSIC!!!!
This is the BEST!!!! :D
I LOVE THESE GIRL THEY WERE JUST FANTASTIC OH SWEET MEMORIES
LOVE THE OLD SCHOOL
gmack6000
Greatest Soul Music Of All Time........ . . .
GIRL BRING BACK THEM DAY'S THAT WAS THE BEST TIME OF MY LIFE GROWING UP IN THE 70 LOVE IT
I love to hear all the girl groups from back in the day!!!!! the type of music will live on 4 ever. these ladys are in a class of their own. the motown sound is the foundation of music as we know it today.
cd30318
who know,swhat could have happen had berry could have looked through trees
Has made a "fool" of me many times. AMEN!!!!
bterry82
Proud to say, I sat with her back in August '09. "Martha" is a Honorable Councilwoman for the City of Detroit, and stills preforms today.
Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. Heat Wave still gets me hot. Gotta go tahe a cool shower. See ya later....
t_heath
They were better than the Supremes!!!! ! !
I love them. =)
ora.owens
Very Great Motown Group!!!!! Outstanding vocals - Martha & the Vandellas should be in the same class as the Supremes, because they were just as good.
kdinaz
I take some offense to Mr. Ankeny's comments in the bio of this great singer. Her passionate voice and vibrato are one of the many elements that gave Motown it's distinct sound. I have been fortunate to meet Martha Reeves. The lady is a class act and a Detroit jewel, as are Annette, Roselind, Lois, and Delphine. Please allow Martha Reeves a better review for the Vandellas contribution to pop music and the Motown sound.
These girls like all Motown artists have a level of class that very few modern artists match.

They have elegance, and Zest.

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